I've got 99 problems

Kelby Campgrounds 
#1
 Living alone in a big old ranch sounded like a good idea at the beginning. Savannah would find peace among nature, without curious neighbours spying on her and cars running around all the time.
Living alone in a big old ranch began to sound like a terrible idea when the strange things started to happen. First there were a lot of complications with the water pipes. The water would stop running out of nowhere, just to come back a few minutes later, like nothing had ever happened.
At night she would hear the horses and the cattle, seemingly more agitated than normal. More than once she got up from bed and peeped out of the window, with her grandfather's old shotgun in hand, just in case. As if she was ever going to use it...

Everything seemed to calm down for a bit until one morning Savannah found two cows laying dead on the ground, noticeably bitten in the torso. That had to be some kind of animal... The blonde called her mother a few times, who had moved out of the ranch since Savannah went to Pennsylvania, hoping she would have a logical explanation for everything. But what if it was business related? What if it was the people from Stoney's Dude Ranch trying to scare her away? It made sense. Her ranch was one of the biggest there and had been uninhabited for a couple years. It would make a good extension to the other ranch, but she would have to sell it first. Maybe they thought she would if they scared her away.

There was only one person that could help her with that, and that would be Luke Hardy. Oh what would she do without him...
She didn't call, instead went directly to the source, North Glenn.
Savannah walked the trail for one hour, approximately, using that time to appreciate her surroundings. She had lived in many different places, but there was no such thing as Mountainside, although it had changed since her last stay. She always wondered why her father had left to New Mexico...
Stoping for a bit to catch her breath, the woman heard steps in the surrounding area and her eyes went immediately to the source of it. There was no way she could not recognize that man, even from behind. Carefully, Savannah walked towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder, taking the other one to her head in order to salute him.
""I need your help"" she said, using sign language, straight to the point as always.


@"Luke Hardy"
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#2
  The hand on his shoulder was very polite. Luke easily settled for having pine cones tossed at him. He jumped a little under her touch, but when he turned and saw a familiar face, Luke’s own burst into warmth and shine. Never mind that she looked troubled, and was asking for him—as a matter of fact, the request made him beam even more.
 Hardy stood a little straighter. He’d been hunched in his hiking, having spent the day tracking and pounding in posts to use as a reference for the environmental surveyors who would follow in his tracks. They were scouting out bear den sites, and he’d been tasked to identify as many in the area as he could. The work was rather thankless even if it kept him from wasting on his couch, but the prospect of aiding someone in a personal affair was far more exciting.
 [HEY SAV.] Luke greeted her with a wave and a flashing of letters on his fingers. With his face turned up in question and hands outspread, he asked her [WHAT?] For her benefit he voiced, "What can I do you for?" The atrocious vernacular was chosen on purpose, judging by the ferocious grin on his face. The ranger was donned in a hat with flaps, his nose rosy red over the white fleece that lined his coat. His garb was warm but faded with age and use, making him blend further into his surroundings.
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#3
 Savannah flashed him one of her famous smiles, one that could warm the heart of the coldest person, and proceeded to sit on a rock, not before playfully stealing his hat and putting it on her own head.
"[WELL...]" she started, not very sure how to explain everything in a way that would make sense and not sound like a ghost story people tell children. But it was Luke, he wouldn't judge.

[SOMETHING STRANGE HAS BEEN HAPPENING AT THE RANCH.] Her facial expression changed to a more serious one, and it could be easy to figure out the concern in her voice.
[I'M AFRAID SOMEONE MIGHT BE BREAKING IN EVERY NIGHT. I HEAR STRANGE NOISES BUT CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT'S HAPPENING. I EVEN GOT UP ONE NIGHT AND PICKED UP GRAMPA'S SHOTGUN JUST IN CASE. BUT FOUND NOTHING...]

The blonde got up, straightening herself and folding her arms, still thinking of a good and logical explanation for everything. After a sigh, she proceeded.
[LAST WEEK I FOUND TWO DEAD COWS NEAR THE BARN. I THINK IT WAS SOME ANIMAL, BECAUSE IT LEFT MARKS, BUT SOMETHING TELLS ME IT'S MORE THAN THAT. WHAT DO YOU THINK?]
The Pressley girl got closer to Luke, putting her hands on his shoulders and looked at him in a way that said "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."
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#4
 She plucked his hat from his head, and he was at first a little indignant with his head being cold, but the way she rocked back and smile stupefied him into silence. It did not take much the splash color onto his cheeks, and there it was as he watched her sign, trying to stay focused on the conversation.
 She did a good job of it, but he made a note to speak more for her benefit—both were good practice for him. Yet he found himself thankful still, not having missed any information even if it must have been cumbersome for her to divulge. The situation was a lot to take in at once, and she did not make it any easier by taking his cover or sliding her hands over his shoulders, staring at him deeply.
 "Uh, yeah." He nodded, unsure of what he was replying to. There was at least one pertinent piece of information he’d dug his teeth into, and he pressed her about it then, still frozen beneath her touch and gaze. "You got pictures of the cattle, right?" Seeing the damage would be the easiest way to identify the culprit, be it man or beast.
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#5
 Savannah let out a sigh of relief, while at the same time she tried to hide a playful smile. She never doubted he would help her, after all, it was Luke Hardy, the most helpful man she had ever met and the only one she would trust.
[YOU OK?] she asked, feeling his body tense under her touch and gently removing her hands in order to colect the cellphone from her pocket.
[I DO, OF COURSE.] Luke was actually right in asking her that, it was Savannah they were talking about, she would do things on impulse and many times forget important things. But that time, she payed a little more attention.
Scrolling through her phone, the blonde easily found a couple pictures that showed the cattle laying on the floor, big bite marks on their bodies and a pool of blood next to them.

Savannah could recall the bad smell just by looking at the photo. It had almost made her throw up when she first came in contact with the problem. So she left the phone on Luke's hand and retrieved a little bit, trying to take a breath of fresh air and forget about the whole red scenario.
She studied his face, trying to preview some kind of reaction, but her eyes could not stop from looking at the phone and the bloody pictures.
[IT WAS AN ANIMAL FOR SURE, LOOK AT THOSE MARKS.] she said, zooming the photo. [WHAT DO YOU THINK I SHOULD DO?]
Savannah looked at the man once again, hoping he would have a solution, if not at least it had felt good to talk to him about it.
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#6
 He nodded too emphatically to her question about his well-being, [OKAY.] He was even better than she started fishing for her phone and he could breathe right away. The device placed in his hands gave him something to focus on, and he removed his gloves before taking the cell and swiping back and forth between pictures.
 The images brought a disconcerting frown to his features. These looked like two healthy cows, and that meant a hefty loss for Savannah. He wanted to offer his condolences right away, but kept his eyes focused on the details. When the image was zoomed he panned around and studied it.
 "It’s hard to say for sure," he admitted. Better would be to be on site where he could investigate the rest of the area and look more in depth at the wounds. This was what he had to work with at the moment, so he tried to make the best of it. "Bite marks around the belly could mean a bear…" He cringed and squinted harder at the images, but did finally look back up at her.
 [YOU HEAR THINGS HOW LONG?] She’d mentioned disturbances, which could mean bad-intentioned men, but also hungry animals on her property.
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#7
 Savannah nodded her head in agreement, for bears where common in the area where she lived in. She would not feel happy with killing the bear, but something needed to be done if it was, in fact, an animal problem.
[SOON AFTER I MOVED IN. IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE IS RUMMAGING THROUGH STUFF OUTSIDE. AND STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN INSIDE THE HOUSE TOO, BUT I GUESS IT'S BECAUSE THE PLACE IS OLD. I STILL NEED TO FIX A COUPLE THINGS.]
Savannah didn't want to startle him, so she played it cool. She could live with the strange noises, but her animals would have to survive.
[MAYBE YOU'D LIKE TO COME BY AND TAKE A LOOK? I SEARCHED THE PROPERTY ONCE OR TWICE BUT MAYBE YOU CAN SPOT SOMETHING NEW. I MEAN, IF YOU ARE FREE, I DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH YOUR PLANS.]
She was hopeful Luke would accept, mainly because it would feel good to have some company in a house as big as hers. She had missed him a lot but he would never know, for it would interfere with her tough woman attitude.
[AND, IF YOU DO COME BY, I'LL COOK YOU DINNER!] She offered, placing his hat back where it belonged.
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#8
 Big predators were never exactly routine, but he’d tracked enough of them, and was tracking them currently, that the idea did not give him pause. Getting rid of a nuisance animal that was causing damage to a person’s livelihood was enough motivation to set him into motion, and the promise of meat and fur to follow was a bonus. He had already been sold when she offered him dinner and placed his cap on his head.
  Luke adjusted it to fit more snugly down on his skull, made dumbfounded once more just when he’d started to recover from his initial surprise. [BE CAREFUL OR I WILL NOT LEAVE] A warning was signed to her, with a look of steadfast seriousness that was meant to be sarcasm. Truth be told, if she did feed him he might find some other excuse to hang around longer, like trying to fix up the problems she’d mentioned having at her place.
 "You got a dog or something?" He quizzed her after clearing his throat, realizing belatedly that his words were far too telling. "A big dog. Not one of those shitty rat dogs."
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#9
 A laugh echoed through the air, lighting the once dark mood that had been settled due to the topic previously discussed. [MAYBE I DON'T WANT YOU TO LEAVE.] Savannah signed shrugging her shoulders. [WHAT IF THE PLAN IS TO KEEP YOU CAPTIVE AND THEN ASK YOUR COWORKERS FOR A RANSOM?] She raised her eyebrows, unsuccessfully hiding a playful grin. [YOU CAN STAY AS LONG AS YOU WANT, YOU'RE ALWAYS WELCOME, LUKE.]
The blonde woman rubbed her hands, trying to keep them warm while her memory went back a couple years. The Pressley Ranch had a dog when she had first moved there from Santa Fe. It was an Australian Shepherd, very friendly and sweet, who had passed away some time after she moved to Pennsylvania. Perhaps Luke would remember him.
[NOT ANYMORE. AFTER ACHILLES DIED AND MY MOM MOVED OUT TO THE CITY ONLY COWS AND HORSES INHABIT THE RANCH. DO YOU REMEMBER ACHILLES? HE WAS THE SWEETEST DOG.]
Maybe adopting a new dog would be a good idea, it would keep her company and protect the ranch agains the nosy intruders.
[BUT WHY DO I NEED A DOG WHEN I HAVE YOU AS MY PERSONAL KNIGHT TO PROTECT ME?]
Her words where full of playfulness but they were also her way of saying that she was grateful for having Luke in her life. With a sweet and sincere smile, Savanah wrapped him in a quick hug. [PLEASE DON'T BE OFFENDED WITH WHAT I JUST SAID.]
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#10
  She needed a dog. Luke made a mental note, and tried on the spot to recall where they might find a proper one to suit her needs. The old ranch hound had been a fine specimen, but they wouldn’t all be so agreeable and worthy out of the box. It would be worth a worth flipping through his rolodex and finding his hunting and ranching contacts; they’d be bound to know where to start.
  He’d been so absorbed in the thought that he missed much of what she’d said—she was saying a lot he noticed finally—until she reached out to embrace him. His brows rose and he blinked, but did not writhe away or reject the press into his space. It was kind of nice, but surprising, and the ranger was left with his mouth hanging open for lack of anything more intelligent to say.
  Finally he lifted his hand to his forehead with a curious expression, [YOU OKAY?]
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#11
 The hug ended as quick as it had started. Savannah retrieved herself and swayed her arms in a not so very comfortable action, before stoping in order to communicate again.
[YEAH, FINE. I JUST WANTED TO THANK YOU, FOR BEING SO HELPFUL, I KNOW YOU'VE GOT A LOT TO DO HERE.]
Proud as a peacock, it was difficult for the blonde to say thank you to someone and actually mean it. It was also not very common of her to ask for someone's help, but there she was, doing both things at the same time. So Savannah playfully hit him in the arm, dismissing the serious tone and playing it cool, specially due to Luke's reaction. She could tell he was not very at ease with her behavior.
[AND YOU, HOW'S LIFE? I DON'T THINK WE'VE HAD A PROPER CHAT YET.]
It was true, Savannah had spent a lot of time organizing everything at home, and some days she would fly back do Pennsylvania just to check if all was okay. In the meantime, Luke had probably been busy with work, so it had been difficult to have a real conversation until now.
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#12
 He laughed in scorn of himself as she mentioned he had a lot to do. [NOT.] He shook his head as he pulled his fist from his chin. Sure he was doing something right now, but it was not imperative to be done on a strict time schedule. Luke struggled to keep busy with odd jobs, and hers would be a welcome task for idling hands.
 Her other answer was met with a shrug and a downturn of his head. He was fine. He had nothing to talk about.
 Finally he reached into his breast pocket of the shirt beneath his coat, and drew out a crimson red hearing aid. Hooking it over his ear, he let the electric noise filter through his senses. Normally he felt a little more uncomfortable with such a visual signal of disability, but she already knew, and he didn’t have the same fear with her as he would others.
 "You sign like a little kid," he explained with a cruel grin. "It’s kinda cute I mean. We can—" Talk, he meant to say, but the word came out as a vague gesture with his hand moving between them in a signal of exchange. He cleared his throat and kept his eyes on her mouth, and tried to move past his own awkward moment, "I can come by tomorrow morning probably. It might take a few days to track it down."
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#13
 Savannah watched him reach for his pocket and immediately recognized the small red device. She knew he didn't like to use it very much, because it was too revealing. She was still determined to change his mind. He should not feel ashamed of his condition. So what, he was deaf. Luke was still the best person she had ever met and that would not change ever. He had so many good qualities that would make that small detail disappear. But Savannah was aware that it was hard for him to think that way, so she would never express it out loud.

"No I don't!" she replied, pretending to be offended and playfully hitting his arm. She cleared her throat before speaking again, for it was a bit dried. "And if I do, I learnt it from you, so it's basically your fault."
She had made a big effort to learn sign language, and it was true she still struggled with some words, but at least she tried. And it felt good to put herself in a position where they were equals.
"Yeah, it feels good to talk to you. You know what would have felt even better? To know that you had that thing all along in your pocket before having to explain the whole story with my hands. You're an ass Luke."

Of course it was a joke, and she let out a laugh after rolling her eyes, pretending to be unimpressed by his behavior.
"Tomorrow morning? Okay, sounds perfect. But please don't show up at six in the morning, Mr. Hardy! Or I'll meet you with a shotgun."
The blonde woman pointed two fingers towards her eyes and then towards him, signaling that she would be watching him.
"How many days? Are you planning into moving in? I won't cook you dinner everyday."
Of course she would, but he didn't need to know.
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#14
 The insult rolled over him with little more than a shrug. It was nice to have someone communicate on his level for a change, but truth be told it had made him uncomfortable after a time, like she was so far out of her element. He could read lips well enough to get by, and with the addition of the aid, could hear most of what he missed otherwise. That included her stipulations to his visit.
  His mouth opened to protest until she qualified with shotgun. The earlier the better, but he could not argue with that gauge of logic; his lips sealed and he held his hands up in surrender. She’s the boss. The signal that she’d have her eyes on him made his smile crooked in his attempts to suppress it, like he shouldn’t be pleased by such an implied threat. He couldn’t help it.
 "Guess it depends on how long it takes me to hunt down your pest, if that’s what it is," he answered and shrugged again. "I don’t really know what we’re getting into yet. Maybe a few days, I can sleep in the barn and take care of myself…" Not that it would be his preference, but he understood, and endured far worse conditions without batting an eye. A cozy barn was as good as a hotel room.
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#15
 "Please be careful." she said, fearing that this animal, or whatever it was, could make more damage than it had already done. They would have to investigate first, indeed. If they were lucky, things would continue to happen on a regular basis, but one could never know.
"Don't be silly, I'm just messing with you. You can sleep inside the house, there's plenty of room." Savannah would never allow Luke to sleep on the barn, specially with the beast roaming around. "We can keep each other company, it will be fun."
A smile appeared on her lips as if she was remembering the old times, when they first met. She couldn't exactly point the moment, because for her, it felt like they'd know each other their whole lives.
"But, if you prefer to leave me alone, unguarded... Well, let's hope the beast does not try to eat me first."
That was blackmail, masked as a joke, but it was. Savannah was too proud to bluntly ask him to stay with her, because she would have to admit her fear first. And everybody knew she would never do that. So she had to come up with a solution.
Adding a little bit more drama to the whole thing, blondie turned around and started walking, not really paying attention to where she was going.
"Maybe I'll find the beast in these woods!"
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#16
 She spoke, and hearing aid or no, his face still crunched together in amusement and mild confusion. On the one hand she offered him a place to sleep and food to eat (which was about all the invitation he needed) and on the other turned to leave abruptly. Her expression and tone was jovial and light, and she said something to him as she walked away.
 Luke stood fast and folded his arms across his chest as he watched her go. Perhaps he did not understand everything she’d said, but he did not think he had earned her ire either. She was strange maybe, but not temperamental in that way, so he was content to watch her move away for several steps before calling out to her,
 "I’ll send you a text when I’m on my way!" He waved in case she meant to turn around and see him smiling like a dope.
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#17
 Savannah stopped in her tracks, trying to hold a smile but not for too long. She turned around once his voice echoed in the air again.
"Okay, I will patiently wait for it."
There was still something she needed to discuss with him, something she had been avoiding since the moment of her arrival. It was not an easy topic and Savannah was afraid of his reaction.
Her face turned serious again as she stood very still, looking at him and thinking of a way of expressing herself. There was no easy way of putting things out...
"There's another thing..." She started, taking a few steps towards him once again. "There is someone else living there with me. And I actually want you to meet this person." A small smile appeared in her lips but it was still easy to see the concerned expression in her face. "I think you'll get along."
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#18
 Just when he thought their exchange would have come to an end, she turned and accosted him with more. Someone else? His brows rose in surprise and curiosity. The easy assumption was she’d been married, and he was pretty sure he recalled she had seen someone in the past. That was cool, and he did not see a good reason why he wouldn’t get along with him, unless he was a total tool. Unlikely if she’d married him, but then again, Sav seemed the type to tolerate a lot.
 Time would tell. Luke shrugged and then nodded, with a casual offering of, "Cool." He was interested, but since she had not offered up much information upfront, he suspected he was meant to wait until the morning to find out.
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#19
 Savannah could feel her palms getting sweaty so she folded her arms, in order to look a bit more care free. Luke reacted pretty well, although she had not been very specific about this person. At least the introduction to the topic had been made. She wanted to rip the bandaid once and for all but ended up slowly lifting the tip of it. Not very brave of her.
"Okay, so I'll see you tomorrow."
Waving goodbye, she turned and followed her path once more, back to where she'd started. There was still a long walk till she could reach her car again but if she'd hurry, she could still get to her destination before dark.
In the end everything turned out the best way. Her problem with the ranch would be solved and she could finally reveal her big secret and step out of the shadows.
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